Baby Changes Everything!Christie Simmons left Fort Worth behind for good reasons. A new life in Brody's Crossing means her son can know his father. Christie and Cal Crawford had a brief affair before he left to go overseas, and she's sure that finding out about the baby wasn't the homecoming he imagined.... Everything in Cal's life is upside down, starting with the fact that his cattle ranch, the Rocking C, is raising everything except cows. Now he's discovering there's a lot more to being a dad than just fathering a child. But as a man who believes in tradition, can Cal change everything about his life? More important, will Christie--a woman he's growing closer to every day--be there if he doesn't?
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June 09, 2008
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Excerpt from An Honorable Texan by Victoria Chancellor
Christie Simmons put her Cadillac SRX into Park but didn't turn off the engine. She didn't plan to get out of the car unless a certain tall, tan, brown-haired rancher exited the ranch house and asked what the heck she was doing on his property.
She waited, but no one came out. Which meant he probably wasn't home yet.
But he was coming home, any day now. That's what his brother's fianc�e had told her on the phone yesterday. That's what the nice waitress at the caf� in town had told her. Christie knew small towns had very active grapevines. By now, they'd probably be buzzing with news that a blond "city girl" had been asking about Cal Crawford.
A blond city girl with a nine-month-old baby, Christie corrected herself, turning to look at the rear-facing car seat. She could only see his cute little face in the special infant mirror attached to the backseat. Peter slept as he usually did when she drove long distances--just like a baby. If she stayed parked here too long, though, he'd awaken and want a bottle, some attention or his diaper changed. Maybe all three. She'd rather find a place to stay before Peter started fussing. A bed-and-breakfast, or even a motel would do, as long as it was clean and safe.
Still, she sat for a minute longer, returning her attention to the beige brick ranch house with the green trim. It was neat and well maintained, as was the red barn maybe half a football field away. In the pasture surrounding the yard, black-and-white cows--the kind in those cheese commercials--grazed on newly greening grass. In another pasture, bison, of all things, appeared to be dozing in the noontime sun. On a rocky hill, chickens of every color pecked among the stunted shrubs and clumps of cactus. What a strange and wonderful place!
Especially for a city girl, she thought. She was rarely around animals, except for her mother's overindulged, yappy and slightly asthmatic Pekingese, Mr. Boodles. Christie had always wanted a yellow Lab, but her parents had insisted big dogs were too much trouble, so she'd lavished her attention on her friends' pets.
When Peter was old enough, she'd get him that yellow Lab she'd never had as a child. She'd have a yard for him to play in and one of those cute inflatable kiddie pools. When Peter and the dog got wet and dirty, she'd clean them up and laugh with them, not scold them for making a mess.
She would not raise her child as she'd been raised, in a luxurious but cold home where perfection was more important than happiness.
With a sigh, she circled back onto the drive leading to the county road. She passed under a wooden arch that spelled out Rocking C in rustic iron letters. She was sure Cal had told her that four generations of Crawfords had lived on the ranch. She also had a vague memory of him mentioning he raised Hereford cattle. She recalled those red-and-white animals from the annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. She'd dutifully attended for years as the child of one of the rodeo sponsors. Everyone who was anyone in Fort Worth had ties to the Fat Stock Show, the Bass Performance Hall or the Kimball Art Museum. Maybe all three.
Cal had been gone a year and a half. Perhaps the ranch had changed since he'd been away. Perhaps it wasn't even his any longer.... But, no, his brother's fianc�e had mentioned Cal was really looking forward to returning to the Rocking C.
"Soon," she whispered to her sleeping son. "Soon you'll meet your daddy."
She headed into Brody's Crossing to find a place to stay until Calvin Peter Crawford IV came home from Afghanistan.
THE RIDE FROM DFW AIRPORT was damn near as uncomfortable as having four pieces of shrapnel cut out of his face. Granted, three of them had been tiny, but the fourth one had left an ugly gash near his right temple.
He'd been called up for active duty just a few months before his military commitment was due to end. His service had been extended by a year of active duty, and while he was gone, his little brother had completely changed the ranch into some kind of organic, bizarre collection of everything he didn't want: buffalo, dairy cows and free-range chickens. What self-respecting rancher raised those animals when he could have good old regular beef cattle grazing on his acres?
He should never have given Troy the power of attorney that James Brody, their lawyer, had said they needed. That simple document had allowed his brother to do whatever he wanted with the Rocking C while Cal was away. And, dammit, he had. He and Cal had exchanged sometimes heated e-mails over the changes to the ranch and had talked a few times by phone, until Cal had become too frustrated to speak to Troy. Cal figured they didn't have anything else to discuss until he actually saw the ranch.
"You need to stop anywhere along the way?" Troy asked.